His own brand of comedy is infectious; his humour hits you hard as intended. He wants you to laugh till you crack your ribs, but do inform your doctor first he insists.
He has performed for Presidents of countries, state governors and for major blue chip corporations in Nigeria, he compeered in the Kanu Nwankwo/Amarachi wedding. This brother is the hottest property in the Nigerian show business scene currently. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the comedy world of Julius Agwu.
This young and diminutive entertainer says that he knew even in his mother’s womb that he was going to be a comedian, how right he was. His stage presence reminds one of Eddy Murphy in his now famous RAW video, but Julius’ act is in a class of its own, Eddy Murphy’s successful parody of the Michael Jackson moonwalk pales in comparism to Julius Agwu’s imitation of the popular Makossa dance steps made popular in Nigeria by the likes of Awilo Longomba, the artist which even Julius himself modestly agrees to have ridden on his back to fame, by doing a Nigerian version of Awilo’s most popular song.
Watching Julius perform the difficult rhythmic step-forward makossa dance, with the microphone perched in his fingers is enough to make you want to crown him Nigeria’s king of entertainment, ahead of his contemporaries like Tee A, Okey Bakassi, Tony one week and Alariwo.
Julius knows how to work the audience. He is not your usual stand – up comedian who looks and talks down on you from the stage. Julius brings the comedy to you, to your seat, a characteristic of modern day Pentecostal preachers.
No wonder his fans call him D’Genius. He does not require any script, he manufactures his humour on the spot, from the objects and people around him, he does not spare any body. Not even yours truly, I came under his ‘attack’ three times in the course of one night.
Firstly, he said he recognised me from Uniport (The University of Port Harcourt) his Alma matter, and that I had transferred from Uniport to Unipetrol (remember those filling stations?). This caused a heavy outburst of laughter in the audience.
Julius is somehow a chip of the old block of renowned African comedians, people like Chief Zebrudaya Okoroigwe Nwogbo of the New Masquerade comedy fame, and also Papi Luwe. These comedians were successful as a result of their approach and style, which the Late Prof. Emmanuel Akpan of the University described as ‘motor park’ type of entertainment. Julius has learnt fast and has adapted his act as well, starting from his debut as the little Peter character in the 1993 hugely successful Nigerian home movie – Rattle Snake.
Julius has since then moved on to other more lucrative areas of show business, according to him: "The secret of success in this business is for one to constantly reinvent himself and also to diversify’, artistes should not only learn the show aspect, but also the business aspect, hence the phrase show business’.
He is indeed right, judging by his phenomenal success in an industry where artistes still struggle to pay their house rents.
I caught up with Julius recently for a short interview during one of his now regular trips to London and other parts of Europe where he takes his self-styled music -comedy to his teeming fans.
Nice show, Julius. Congratulations. I can see that all the women in the hall are rooting for you, how does ‘madam’ cope with all the female attention.
(Laughter) who said I was married? I am single, ready to mingle with a single, if she does not have a pimple and can swingle and not swindle…
What is it about Julius Agwu that is creating all the waves at the moment?
Well, they say I am the African Eddy Murphy but I don’t think so, I’ll rather see myself as the African Julius Agwu. Eddy is a great entertainer but my own brand of entertainment is different, I am the originator of music comedy so I guess that’s what my fans love most.
Now, speaking about Eddy Murphy and the other successful American entertainers, why have such financial success eluded African entertainers?
The main problem is that of under appreciation, both by the fans and the government. The fans want to enjoy the show for free, without paying. In America people pay huge ticket fees to attend comedy concerts but in Nigeria, they want to enjoy the same for free. Also piracy is denying artistes of proceeds from their talent; my music comedy CD (My style/Okombo) has been pirated several times. The Nigerian government does not help matters either, if only they will pay some attention to the Arts and entertainment practitioners, the same way they do to sports, we can even help them to promote Nigeria’s image abroad, as we will then be able to take our acts to different stages all over the world.
Okay you have mentioned piracy, what else is your biggest challenge as an artist?
I would say it is being fresh always with my material, and also being able to hold the attention of the audience.
So how do you try to conquer these challenges?
It is really not easy; it takes a lot of hard work and research. But I must say that God has never let me down in that aspect.
I think it depends on the artiste and his or her art form. However, it is still difficult so artistes do engage in other commercial activities, for example in addition to music comedy, I am into commercials as well and I also have a production company called Reel Laif Ltd which deals in all sorts of show business oriented activities.
As one of the few successful artistes in Nigeria, how do you encourage the younger ones wishing to come into the industry?
I have some budding artistes at the moment that I have taken under tutelage, I take them to my shows to learn the trade, and I also sponsor them to perform in local events. I would like to do more, maybe even set up a comedy academy but I am still being limited by resources.
What should your fans expect from you in the coming months?
Well, they should expect a funnier Julius Agwu; I have plans of reaching out more to Nigerians abroad. Hopefully, I will be going to America (Houston) this year so Nigerians in America should get ready for the Julius Agwu music comedy train.
Thanks, Julius. Good luck with your tour of Europe.